If you’ve never visited the British Isles, what are some of the things you might want to think about before you go? We’ve tried to address some frequently asked questions below:
Yes, it rains there. A lot, but not usually for long. Carry a small umbrella and maybe an emergency poncho or rainsuit with you every day. Rain boots or “wellies” are essential, as are good walking shoes.
Voltage is higher in the British Isles, at 230 V and 50 Hz frequency, so you will need a three-pronged “G” type adaptor and a voltage converter. Often, you can find these combined in one item.
Call your cell phone provider before you leave to see what kind of global options they have. If your current phone won’t work overseas, you may be able to rent one from your provider.
The currency in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is the British Pound Sterling. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro. Check with your bank to see if you need a PIN for your credit card in order to withdraw money at ATMS, and see if your credit card has international transaction fees. Make sure to let each bank know when and where you will be traveling, so that they can lift any international restrictions from your card. If your credit cards do not yet have a chip, they will not work, so get them upgraded before you travel.
Tipping in restaurants is optional, and is usually 10% for exceptional service. In pubs, there is generally no wait staff, so you need to go up to the bar to order food.
If you choose to drive yourself, remember that you are always on the left ride of the road. Try to familiarize yourself with British road rules before traveling, or things like roundabouts will be a challenge! Pick up a map, and remember that roads are marked by size:
“M” roads are four-lane motorways, “A” roads are two lanes, and “B” roads are…well, small and very narrow. If you find yourself facing another car on a B-road, one of you will need to back up until you find a pull-off on the side of the road. Driving in London is not recommended.
Travel throughout London is easiest (and fastest) underground. Grab a map of the London subway system at any station, or from the concierge in your hotel. You will need to purchase an “Oyster Card” to travel; these are refillable, and you need to swipe the card before you get on and off each train. Oyster cards are also used on buses, Thames River services, Dockland Light Railway, and London Overground trains and trams. Oyster cards are refillable and never expire.
Dial 999 in case of emergencies. Check with your health insurance plan to see if you have coverage overseas.